The 2019 AKC National Championship marked one of 18-year-old Caroline Clegg’s last shows as a Junior Handler, after aging out in April. Although Junior Handlers must be 17 or younger, they are invited to the AKC National Championship based on having at least five first-place wins in Open Class with competition present between Oct. 11, 2018 and Oct. 9, 2019 (as long as they are between 9-17 during those wins).
“I was basically born at a dog show,” Caroline says. “My mom came and won the Kuvasz National when I was one week old, so I’ve had to grow up with it and then I just fell in love.”
Caroline was a junior handler starting at age nine, and competes in Conformation and sometimes, Diving Dogs. Her family owns two boarding kennels and as a family, they show Kuvaszok, Pumik, Golden Retrievers, and Salukis, just to name a few.
The Future of Dog Sports
The year 2019 ended on a happy note for Caroline, who finished second in the Junior Showmanship competition at the AKC National Championship. Caroline also handled multiple dogs in the Best in Group rings at the event, which was the country’s largest in history.
Now a freshman in college at Wittenberg University, Caroline is studying business/entrepreneurship and plans to continue showing dogs. Her Kuvasz, Mo’Ne, is the top winning Kuvasz bitch of all time. “Beating my mom’s record,” Caroline adds. Mo’Ne has placed twice at Westminster and once at the AKC National Championship.
Once Caroline graduates, she plans to work with several different handlers to gain as much knowledge as she can. “Hopefully, when I’m about 25 or so, I’ll set out to be my own professional handler.”
Want to Get Involved?
The AKC Juniors program offers children and teens under 18 an opportunity to develop their handling skills and learn about good sportsmanship, dogs, and dog shows.
Juniors are eligible to compete in Showmanship, Obedience, Agility, Rally, Tracking, Hunt Tests, Herding, Field Trials, Earthdog, Lure Coursing, Coursing Ability, and Coonhound Events. There is no minimum age requirement for sports other than Showmanship.
If your child is interested in becoming an AKC Junior Handler, the first step is to watch a show and sign up for a class. Juniors under 18 years old can sign up for a Junior Handler number here. This number will be used to track their participation in AKC sports.
Except in Junior Showmanship, Juniors will exhibit in the regular classes and in the field along with all other exhibitors at the trials and tests, where they can obtain the same titles on their dogs and awards as adult handlers if they qualify. They obtain the same titles and awards as adult handlers if they qualify.
Junior participation in AKC sports will be recognized through the AKC Junior Recognition Program and at the end of the year, the AKC will award the Junior Versatility Awards and Scholarships. You can learn more about the AKC Junior Recognition Program.
For more information, email your questions to Juniors@akc.org.